Sunday, October 28, 2007

Luck II

I wrote about luck – reminiscing about my late grandfather Sody – back in June. Every accomplished entrepreneur I know cites luck as a tenet of their success. I believe things do not happen for a preordained reason; people and teams make it happen. Further, it’s tiresome when people lament, “He/she got lucky,” as if his/her success was not well earned. Those who bemoan luck are sedentary in their actions, staid in their thinking. Think Eyeore.

But, if entrepreneurs unite in their belief of luck, what is it, how does it happen, and how can you create an environment that permeates luck? Unsure, I turned to a few sages, eventually honing in on Marc Andreessen’s perspective, specifically Luck and the entrepreneur, part 1: The four kinds of luck. For starters:

Luck is something that every successful entrepreneur will tell you plays a huge role in the difference between success and failure. Many of those successful entrepreneurs will only admit this under duress, though, because if luck does indeed play such a huge role, then that seriously dents the image of the successful entrepreneur as an omniscient business genius.
Okay, but how and why and when? Andreessen references Dr. James Austin, a neurologist and philosopher who wrote an, according to Andreessen, outstanding book called Chase, Chance, and Creativity. Dr. Austin believes there are four kinds of luck, interchangeable with chance. First, his definition of chance:
Chance... something fortuitous that happens unpredictably without discernable human intention.
Dr. Austin then frames the four varieties of chance, escalating in their efficacy:
In Chance I, the good luck that occurs is completely accidental. It is pure blind luck that comes with no effort on our part. Chance I is completely impersonal; you can't influence it.

In Chance II, something else has been added -- motion. A certain [basic] level of action "stirs up the pot", brings in random ideas that will collide and stick together in fresh combinations, lets chance operate. Chance II favors those who have a persistent curiosity about many things coupled with an energetic willingness to experiment and explore.

Chance III involves involves a special receptivity, discernment, and intuitive grasp of significance unique to one particular recipient. Chance III favors those who have a sufficient background of sound knowledge plus special abilities in observing, remembering, recalling, and quickly forming significant new associations. [He provides a terse summary of Fleming’s accidental discovery of penicillin … great stuff.]

Chance IV favors the individualized action. Chance IV comes to you, unsought, because of who you are and how you behave. [It] favors those with distinctive, if not eccentric hobbies, personal lifestyles, and motor behaviors.
Andreessen wraps with his roadmap for getting luck on our side:
  • How energetic are we? How inclined towards motion are we?
  • How curious are we? How determined are we to learn about our chosen field, other fields, and the world around us?
  • How flexible and aggressive are we at synthesizing -- at linking together multiple, disparate, apparently unrelated experiences on the fly?
  • How uniquely are we developing a personal point of view -- a personal approach.

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